Greta McAnany

Greta McAnany

Chicago’s Breadline Group Moves to LA with 11, September

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11, September, presented by Breadline Productions, opens Jan. 8; plays Thurs.-Sat., 8 pm; Sun., 7 pm; through Feb. 7. Tickets: $25-$30. Odyssey Theatre, 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles. 310.477.2055 x2 or 11septemberplay.info.

Paul Kampf
Paul Kampf

Breadline Theatre Group’s first production in Los Angeles is the world premiere of Paul Kampf’s 11, September. Kampf is certain audience members will remember the experience of their first Breadline show. “I tell people to see a Breadline show because they can’t be indifferent to it; they will have a reaction to it,” he says.

Kampf co-founded the Breadline Theatre Group with fellow artists and friends in 1993, and has stayed on as a resident actor, writer and director for the past 15 years. As Breadline moves to California from its long-time home in Chicago, Kampf says the transition is a natural and exciting one for the company.

A combination of losing their long-time space in Chicago and having Kampf’s feature adaptation American Gothic filmed recently in LA led the company out West. And Kampf couldn’t be more pleasantly surprised with this choice. “It’s really surreal being out here,” he says. “All the preconceived notions I had about LA were wrong. There is a vibrant theatre community here with talented, dedicated artists who want to work.”

Thus far it has been all “good realizations” for Kampf as he works as both a writer and actor on his original play 11, September. Directed by Gita Donovan and also starring Liz Rebert, the play is a guest production at the Odyssey Theatre. Like most Breadline work, 11, September focuses on the relationship of the personal and the political. “All theatre is political,” says Kampf.

The story 11, September tells involves the connection between a mathematician, speaking in New York about 9/11 eight years after the tragedy, and a woman he meets. It centers on the defining moments in our lives, those accidents of fate that change everything. The drama, about coincidence, truth, denial and the secrets we keep, brings two strangers together in a chance meeting that alters their lives forever.

“It’s a metaphor of major events in our country, and speaks to what we are as a collective society and what we are all responsible for,” says Kampf.

In this play Kampf deals with his own battles with both sides of any issue, and explores the idea that there are never “clean answers.” He hopes this show can help people gain perspective of where they are in process of being honest with themselves.

Liz Rebert and Paul Kampf
Liz Rebert and Paul Kampf

“As the show unwinds you realize how deep it really goes,” says Kampf. “I show the personal demons of both characters and then hope audience members see where they are in the spectrum of these two people. It’s about the truthfulness of the person while watching.”

Kampf sees theatre as a heightened sense of reality where the audience must be presented with the extreme in order to examine their own lives. “If we were trying to replicate reality, we would just have them watch reality TV,” he says. “I write my plays so as they unfurl the audience is drawn into the play to care about the people in a human way.” This technique is supposed to help the audience to sympathize, not judge the characters onstage.

Kampf began writing 18 years ago during his acting graduate studies when he decided he was tired of the material he was given to work with and had something of his own to say. His first play was a success and Kampf was invited to the London Court Theatre to study in a three-month program with writers from around the world. This overseas experience was Kampf’s first foray exploring writing and directing.

Now as a writer and actor, he believes as an artist he benefits from being on both sides of the work. “At first as a writer I’m ahead of the director but soon they have their vision and they are ahead of me,” says Kampf. “Then as an actor I learn new things the writer didn’t know and by the end of the run I am figuring out my intention as a writer.”

He says it is a lesson in “keeping up with what could be” and leaving space for the ambiguities that are rich for the actor. With his personal experience, and the rich history of Breadline, Kampf is looking to make a permanent home in Los Angeles. “My goal is to bring together the right individuals to secure a building to make our home.”

In the production of 11, September, Kampf hopes to lay the foundation for Breadline’s future and encourage people to get to know them. “I want to get settled in and get roots to make the right decision,” he says. “I feel confident for those who see it, the show will be something.” 11, September – What are the defining moments in our lives – those accidents of fate that change everything?  In this provocative new drama about coincidence, truth, denial, and the secrets we keep, incredible circumstances bring two strangers together in a chance meeting that alters their lives forever.

Feature image and story image of Paul Kampf and Liz Rebert by Alice Fox

Article by Greta McAnany